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Xia: Club to ‘discuss’ safe standing arrival at Villa Park

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Standing hasn’t been seen at B6 since the 1990s, and it would require a change in law to see, but Dr. Tony Xia is willing to open the discussion on safe standing in the Holte End.

A rail seating area at Bundesliga 2 side Hannover 96’s HDI-Arena is locked in the “upright” position, allowing for safe standing during matches.
Photo courtesy of the Football Supporters’ Federation

Could standing areas be on their way back to Villa Park? If Dr. Tony Xia has his way, it just might.

In response to a fan question on Twitter about if he could “get the ball rolling to make the Holte safe standing,” the new Villa owner had this to say:

The safe standing debate has been reignited in British football by way of Scotland, whose SPFL is allowing Celtic to trial a 2,600-seat safe standing area this season. The trial’s seen rail seats, the preferred safe standing setup by most advocates, installed in a corner of Celtic Park. And if early preseason returns are to be believed, the seats have already boosted the atmosphere at the home of the Scottish champions.

But there’s a fundamental difference between England and Scotland here: The post-Hillsborough laws in England prevent standing in the top two divisions, but those laws don’t apply in Scotland, where only a league ban on standing prohibited terraces from appearing at top-flight matches. Thus, if safe standing — even on a trial basis, presumably — is to ever go ahead, it will require a change in law, making the process much more complicated.

As someone who’s a big proponent of safe standing — it’s safer than supporters that wish to stand in the current ground setup — seeing the club return to the discussion, at least, warms my hart. If you’ll remember, the club were supporters of safe standing under Paul Faulkner, earmarking the corner of the ground between the Holte End and the Trinity Road Stand for a trial, but we hadn’t heard much on the subject since his 2014 departure.

Rail seats, for those not familiar, are folded up when standing is desired, and folded down when seating is the call. If you’re curious to read more on safe standing, and in particular rail seats, I’d strongly suggest checking out the Football Supporters’ Federation guide on the subject. It’s a good read and covers the differences between modern safe terraces, like the ones you see today in Germany, and the problematic ones of the 1980s.

Clearly, there’s a number of hurdles that’d have to be cleared before we could see a standing Holte End once more. But as the matchday experience in Germany continues to widen its gap on the English one, it’s great to see the club once again willing to open the debate.